How the Apple Retail Store took over the world

“‘Sorry, Steve: Here’s Why Apple Stores Won’t Work,’ proclaimed a headline in BusinessWeek in May 2001,” Ana Swanson reports for The Washington Post. “Published the day after Apple opened its first retail store in Tyson’s Corner, Va., the opinion piece argued that Apple’s focus on a few products and a ‘perfectionist attention to aesthetics’ would limit the company’s appeal. ‘Apple’s problem is it still believes the way to grow is serving caviar in a world that seems pretty content with cheese and crackers,’ the article quotes former CFO Joseph Graziano as saying.”

“The author was not the only nay-sayer when it came to Apple’s new store idea. At the time, Apple’s strategy of opening expensive, airy retail stores to display just a handful of products seemed incredibly profligate for a growing brand with no retail experience — especially when more established consumer electronics chains were in decline,” Swanson reports. “Even in hindsight, it’s kind of crazy that Apple pulled off its unique store strategy – but clearly, it did. As Apple reports third quarter earnings after market close on Tuesday, the company has 265 stores in the U.S. and more than 400 worldwide. According to research company eMarketer, Apple’s stores generated sales of $5,009 per square foot in the 12 months leading up to May 2015, more than any other brand in the U.S., including Tiffany & Co.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: One more quote, if you don’t mind. It’s one of our all-time favs:

I give [Apple] two years before they’re turning out the lights on a very painful and expensive mistake.David Goldstein, Channel Marketing Corp. President, commenting on Apple’s opening of retail stores, May 21, 2001

Overall sales at shopping malls with an Apple Store are 10% higher – March 11, 2015
Apple Stores dominate retail with double the sales per sq. ft. of nearest rival, Tiffany & Co. – November 13, 2012
Why authorities waive rents and taxes to land Apple Retail Stores – May 20, 2012


  1. As I stood in line at the Apple Store at Willow Bend in Plano, TX (the third store to open), I knew that Apple stores were here to stay. There was a huge pent up demand for a place where Apple customers could buy their Apple products from knowledgeable and enthusiastic sales staff. The naysayers didn’t get it because they didn’t understand WHY the Apple stores would be successful despite the failure of Gateway stores and other retail efforts. Later when I started working at Willow Bend, customers would ask the key question that revealed very clearly one of the major reasons why Gateway failed. The asked, “Do you have this in stock?”. That was an indicator that they were ready to buy right then and there. If you asked the same question at Gateway, you were told that you would need to order your new PC, and that the store was just a showroom. Another reason why Gateway went down the crapper was because you could buy an ugly generic PC anywhere. Why go to Gateway stores and order your PC when you could just go across the street to Best Buy, or CompUSA?

  2. I went last week to one of London’s prime Apple Stores, to buy a new MacBook Pro. I have used Macs since the 1990s. If my experience was typical, the strategy needs at least careful attention, and possible overall review. Briefly, I knew the model I wanted but wanted to check some details: ideally I would have ordered a customised model on line, for collection at a convenient Apple Store, but in the UK that is not available. Direct delivery to my home address is not convenient and having to pick £1500 of computer from a corner store not reassuring.
    There were very few staff covering the Mac end, vast areas were dedicated to sparsely attended Apple Phone tables, and the staff that were there all seemly to be in long general conversations with browsers (and themselves). I could not find any accessory displays for plug in drives. I finally grabbed a passing staffer and demanded attention, but he didn’t listen to my worries over flash memory size.
    I eventually managed to buy what I wanted but it was an enormous struggle, and depressing. I doubt I’ll go back.


    1. I think you should report this, as then the particular store you used has a chance to make amends.

      My recommend is to always pre-book a slot online, then you have them to yourself. Oh, and rather like a visit to IKEA, choose a midweek evening when stores are usually quieter.

    2. I have a hard time believing this, it certainly would not have been true for the Covent Garden store, which I frequent regularly. For me it has always been very friendly, all I need to do is indicate I need assistance and an Apple specialist is there to help. The inventory is the exact same as the stores in the US. The only reason I wouldn’t buy a Mac in the UK is because of the silly pound, which makes everything much more expensive than in other Euro countries. For a Brit it makes much more sense to pop on over the Channel and to pick up a Mac in Amsterdam. A lot more fun as well!

      1. Renaldo

        As it happens it was the Covent Garden Store. Midweek morning. Maybe everyone was on early lunch break. Maybe the Mac sales staff have been demoralised by changes in the importance of the niche. Maybe Angela Ahrends has failed to connect and motivate – some wider evidence that she isn’t a good communicator. Maybe just too few staff! Whatever it felt like an unhappy operation, and none of the traditional enthusiasm.

  3. Goes to show you, the most professional people, don’t know what they are talking about.

    To the layperson they “know” a lot. But no one is an expert. It’s all a lie, so they can charge you more for doing less.

    If you want to experience true professionalism, hire a tradesman.

  4. Great visualization in the article showing the stores growth and even what they look like if you click on the yellow dot! (Kudos to CartoDB??) Apple is taking over the world!

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